By Greg Anthony
Here's how West will finish . . .
The Western Conference has been an 800-pound gorilla, ruling the NBA in recent years. But now we've seen a reversal. I don't think any team from the West, other than the Spurs, has a chance to win it all. The next two or maybe three teams that could win it after the Spurs come from the East. Here's how I see the West seeding come playoff time:
1. Spurs. I've talked about Detroit having the best frontcourt and backcourt, but the Spurs have the best trio with Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the game.
2. Suns. It's a tribute to the team that it is playing as well as it is right now, without Amare Stoudemire. Mike D'Antoni imposed his philosophy and style on the league. His formula's working again this year. Boris Diaw and James Jones have come in and boosted them on the perimeter.
3. Nuggets. Marcus Camby's health and Carmelo Anthony's improvement will determine to what degree Denver will be a factor in playoffs. Anthony simply needs to go to another level offensively and defensively. Denver gets this high seed by virtue of winning the Northwest.
4. Mavericks. You still have to worry about their leadership on the court, and that's going to be controlled by Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry. A full year under Avery Johnson has helped develop their defensive disposition. Josh Howard has given them some good versatility.
5. Grizzlies. Eddie Jones has had a huge impact, especially on the defensive end. And he's given them a good second scoring option after Pau Gasol. I think they got great point play from Earl Watson and Jason Williams the last couple of years, but it's been even better with Bobby Jackson and Damon Stoudamire.
6. Sonics. They're obviously making the adjustment under coach Bob Weiss. Luke Ridnour and Ray Allen are keys. Last year was big for the team's confidence. I think they'll have enough for the playoffs.
7. Clippers. In the playoffs. The Clippers. It's hard for me to mouth those words. But I do like their coach, Mike Dunleavy, and the team's got a high basketball IQ with Elton Brand and Sam Cassell. Their mix of talent is very good. But will Sam be able to play at this level the entire season?
8. Lakers. I think they have too great a coach and too great a player in Kobe Bryant to not figure it out. Kobe is going to have to learn how to be a winner as the best player on his team. He's never had to do that before.
Warriors. This team has always had injuries. And I can't remember the last time Baron Davis played a full season.
Rockets. Yao hasn't gotten that much better. He just hasn't been that dominant player that people have labeled him. And the moves in offseason were not that good.
There's no hiding from the accomplishments of Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, who played 49 minutes, scored 37 points and dished nine assists in Washington's 119-111 OT win over Raptors. It was his sixth game of more than 30 points this year.
In regards to Greg Anthony's rankings of the Eastern Conference, I take exception with his ranking of the Wizards. He puts the Bulls at 6th and mentions the experience they got in last year's playoffs, but the Wiz have far better personnel and got past the Bulls last year. The Wiz are definitely going through a rough stretch, but when they've been clicking this year, they've been amazing. I think that there will be a few differences in Greg's standings and the actual standings at the end of the year.
Predicting all five teams from the Central Division to make the playoffs proves it -- this is the best division in basketball. Detroit is the best team in basketball and Indiana, Chicago, Cleveland, and even Milwaukee are all playing good basketball to this point. The only question mark is how badly these teams will beat up on each other during the year.
C'mon Greg! The Nets and Bulls ahead of the Bucks?! The Bucks have great depth and balance and will only get better as they play together more (barring injuries, of course). I think they can challenge for the No. 5 spot if all goes well.
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Quote of the Night
-- Andrew Ayres
Sarunas Jasikevicius, Indiana Pacers, 3 years, $12 million.
Boris Diaw led the Suns with 13 assists Tuesday night, his third straight game with at least nine "helpers." He's the only starting forward or center this season to record 9-plus assists in three straight games.
• Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias
Pacers rookie forward Danny Granger made his first start for Indiana on Tuesday and had career highs with nine points and seven rebounds in the 84-75 loss to the Mavericks at Conseco Fieldhouse.
"He's a terrific young player. He's going to be involved a lot before this season is over," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle told the Indianapolis Star last month. "I don't hesitate putting him in games. I've sat with him and told him he's going to have to be ready for anything."
The 6-9 New Orleans native, who starred at New Mexico, fell to the Pacers at No. 17 in the draft because of concerns over recent knee surgery.
When Sebastian Telfair (20 years, 178 days old) and Martell Webster (19 years exactly) started in the backcourt for Portland against Utah on Sunday, they comprised the youngest backcourt in modern NBA history. Compared to the combined age of that Blazers backcourt, Heat guard Gary Payton is only 2 years, 52 days younger.
-- The Associated Press, ESPN